Poems by Linda Aldrich
The Disappearance of Mademoiselle
When she entered the patisserie,
the women sang her name.
She was 18 and too thin,
too far from her mother,
her coat not a winter coat.
She liked it here. She learned
she was melody: sweet melt
of croissant chocolat,
a tartelette aux pêches.
They knew her as not
ready for marriage,
and she agreed.
She was not madame,
word without feathers,
like an insult
wrapped around a rock.
The world of mademoiselle,
was always morning and light-filled.
She was new to the world, counting
centimes, her lips blowing out soft
shapes, oranges, framboises, almonds.
Her legs, so fond of themselves,
they took her at her word,
they took her everywhere.
Where she was last seen:
at the patisserie, bells
ringing over her head.
She was walking in the door,
as the women looked up,
their mouths closing quietly
around an old impulse,
their eyes empty of her,
and the song she hoped for
slipping out of memory.
“When we examine a nest,
we place ourselves at the origin
of confidence in the world.”
A vireo’s nest, tiny and perfect, woven
of pine needles, strips of birch bark,
and a thin piece of white string
threaded from top to bottom.
The bird’s signature,
the way Navajo women sign rugs.
I look into the empty cup as though
to read tea leaves. Sometimes
I crawl in to feel Braille
on my back. Letters bending,
each needle a work of circle-making,
the round room we yearn for,
the swaying rock-a-bye and cradle croon.
My mother wrote her name in cursive
thousands of times on yellow legal pads,
as if to bring herself more into this world
by signing up for it, as if by letting
the still strange letters of her married
name become more rounded, more
comfortable walking their green
tightropes, she might finally
come all the way home to us,
where we waited in vain
for the circle of her arms.
Linda Aldrich has two collections of poetry: Foothold (2008) and March and Mad Women (2012). Her poems have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies, among them Crazy Woman Creek, Indiana Review, Cimarron Review, Elixir, The Denver Quarterly, Ellipsis, The Florida Review, Poet Lore, Third Coast, Puerto del Sol, Snake Nation Review, The Best of Write Action, and Words and Images. Her poem “Woman-without-Arms” won the Emily Dickinson Award 2000 from Universities West Press. Linda lives in Portland, Maine, with her husband David and their exceptional dog Simba.